POLG mutations in neurodegenerative disorders with ataxia but no muscle involvement

Neurology. 2004 Oct 12;63(7):1251-7. doi: 10.1212/01.wnl.0000140494.58732.83.


Objective: To identify POLG mutations in patients with sensory ataxia and CNS features.

Methods: The authors characterized clinical, laboratory, and molecular genetic features in eight patients from five European families. The authors conducted sequencing of coding exons of POLG, C10orf2 (Twinkle), and ANT1 and analyzed muscle mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), including Southern blot analysis and long-range PCR.

Results: Ataxia occurred in combination with various CNS features, including myoclonus, epilepsy, cognitive decline, nystagmus, dysarthria, thalamic and cerebellar white matter lesions on MRI, and neuronal loss in discrete gray nuclei on autopsy. Gastrointestinal dysmotility, weight loss, cardiomyopathy, and valproate-induced hepatotoxicity occurred less frequently. Two patients died without preceding signs of progressive external ophthalmoplegia. In muscle, typical findings of mitochondrial disease, such as ragged red fibers and Southern blot mtDNA abnormalities, were absent. POLG mutations were present in eight patients, including two isolated cases, and one Finnish and two unrelated Belgian families contained in total six patients. All POLG mutations were recessive, occurring in a homozygous state in seven patients and in a compound heterozygous state in one patient. The novel W748S mutation was identified in five patients from three unrelated families.

Conclusions: The clinical spectrum of recessive POLG mutations is expanded by sensory ataxic neuropathy, combined with variable features of involvement of CNS and other organs. Progressive external ophthalmoplegia, myopathy, ragged red fibers, and Southern blot abnormalities of muscle mitochondrial DNA also are not mandatory features associated with POLG mutations.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Ataxia / genetics*
  • Ataxia / pathology
  • Ataxia / physiopathology
  • Brain / pathology
  • DNA Polymerase gamma
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / metabolism
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / genetics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscles / pathology
  • Mutation
  • Mutation, Missense
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / genetics*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / pathology
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / physiopathology
  • Ophthalmoplegia, Chronic Progressive External / genetics
  • Pedigree
  • Point Mutation


  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • DNA Polymerase gamma
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase
  • POLG protein, human